The Day Of The Triffids: A Special FX Schlockfest!

Title: The Day Of The Triffids
Studio/Distributor: eOne Films
Director: Nick Copus
Principle Cast: Dougray Scott, Joely Richardson, Eddie Izzard, Brian Cox, Vanessa Redgrave, Jason Priestley
Length: 180 minutes
Released: 2009
Stars: 2.0

I never read the post-apocalyptic 1951 novel by John Wyndham, nor did I see the original 1962 movie – which I have been told by a reliable source was really quite scary – starring Howard Keel and Nicole Maurey.  However, Nick Copus’ 2009 version of The Day of The Triffids is a two part television mini-series (in this special 2-disc edition) that’s half science fiction / adventure survival story, half love story and 100% bloody cheesy!

The Triffids are giant carnivorous plants that are part aloe vera, part Venus fly trap, with purple, grim reaper-hooded heads.  Genetic scientists have created this “Frankenstein fuel crop” that produces ethanol-type oil.  Triffoil out sells petrol at the pumps but now Mother Nature has decided to take her revenge on the humans who have all but destroyed the planet and it’s the Triffids’ turn to reclaim it.

Triffids use their tentacly roots to ensnare their victims so they can drag them off and sting them with their long, poisonous stamen daggers.  In this version, Triffids always go for the eyes, and their venom causes paralysis and heart attack, while after death they feed on the rotting, meaty corpses.

This story is primarily set in London, England in a future that appears to look remarkably like the present.  After a cataclysmic solar flash hits Earth and renders 99% of its inhabitants blind, the seeing are left to rebuild their world while taking care of the sightless and trying to figure out a way to deal with the male Triffids who have escaped their farms (where they’re genetically engineered) before they can pollinate the females and destroy the human race.  The survivors bid for power to try to stay one step ahead of a megalomaniac named Torrence (played with glee and much ill-placed humour by the British transvestite / stand-up comedian, Eddie Izzard who is the best thing about this production), as well as these crazy man-eating plants.

Bill Masen (the handsome but rather dour Dougray Scott) is a scientist who has been researching Triffids and works for the Triffoil companies that we later discover his father founded.  His mother and father were also research scientists and his mother was killed by a Triffid many years before in Zaire, when Bill was six.  His father (Brian Cox) made his fortune setting up Triffoil, which ultimately led to saving the world from global warming, but he was always too busy to have any time for his now estranged son.  Masen narrates parts of the story in a monotone reminiscent of The Road Warrior.

Joely Richardson plays a radio presenter named Jo Payton, an avant garde, forward-thinking woman who becomes the love interest for Bill Masen.  Her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, portrays the head nun of a country abbey who fancies herself the Queen Bee and decides that she has the right to play God.  Jason Priestley is Major Coker, one of the sighted who believes that it’s his job to take care of the blind and make sure that anyone else who can see does the same.  The cast sold me on watching this movie, but they couldn’t save it from being the crap that it is.

As the story opens, a plant activist named Walter (Ewen Bremner of Trainspotting fame) breaks into the Triffoil refinery to set the Triffids free.  While Masen tries to stop him, he gets stung in the eye by a baby Triffid and ends up in a hospital with bandages over his eyes when the devastating solar flash occurs.  In the meantime, Torrence survives a spectacular plane crash with his sight intact because he was wearing a sleep mask when it struck, so he sets off to take full advantage of the fact that he’s one of the few who can still see and soon devises an evil plan.  Once the Triffids escape the farms, they head for the nearest food source, which is of course, humans.

According to the bonus feature, CGI and green screen was used almost every day of the shoot.  Dougray Scott admitted that he found it difficult to deal with and it shows.  His character seems to loosen up and display more human emotions in the second half of the series, but throughout most of the first half, he wears the same stoic expression on his face all the time and I guess that the director didn’t notice.

The movie looks cool and stylized but the whole time you’re watching, you’re rolling your eyes, exclaiming, “As if!”, and thinking, “I should have smoked a big spiff before I watched this thing!”  It seems that the team in charge of sound effects couldn’t quite make up their minds about what the Triffids should sound like because sometimes they slither and rattle like snakes, sometimes they scream like panthers, and other times they just make a strange insect-like burring noise.

There are several holes in the story, one of them being that we never really know whether or not any other country aside from England has suffered the same fate.  It’s just assumed by the characters.  In the end, our heroes escape in a row boat to the Isle of Wight where the Triffids can’t get them as they are separated by the sea, but there are a lot of islands on Planet Earth so wouldn’t that mean that there would be many, many different places where new communities could form to reinvent their lives?

Bonus features on the DVD include trailers for other eOne Films and an approximately 34 minute long documentary of The Making of the Day of the Triffids.  It’s hard to believe when watching it that the director, producers and cast took the whole project so seriously and were so earnest about it when it is in fact nothing more than a popcorn movie that’s a special FX schlockfest.

Masen’s character ends the movie with this reflection:

“Future generations will ask how it happened.  How did the world get swallowed up so quickly?  It was because we had our eyes closed even when we could see.”

You know, there are times when it might not be so bad to be blind.

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